‘Up-cycled patchwork couture‘ better describes my craft, as each garment is very carefully hand made from scratch, using cut up recycled clothes. My casual women’s wear: dresses, jackets, skirts, dressing gowns, coat-dresses, pinafore dresses and robes are real ‘slow’ fashion; unique one-off garments.
All garments are made exclusively from recycled fabrics; good quality cotton, linen, viscose and silk, with viscose or polyester linings, chosen from the plethora of good clothes in the charity outlets which proliferate in the UK high streets. I used to abhor polyester, but In 2018 I started using polyester dress prints as inside linings to garments, as it never degrades it must be used. The design process is one of being inspired by the groupings of fabrics into colourways, weights and textures. These are collected and added to the ‘colour baskets’ whenever I have found a new piece for a colourway I have in waiting. Many ‘ladies-in-waiting’.
Silk paintings are sometimes included in the patchwork garments, and a relevant informative blog will also appear in this site along with their composite garment.Videosare available of some silk painting works.
Ahimsa ‘Peace’ silk (which allows the silk worm’s cycle to complete) is used for my silk painting when available as offcuts from a fashion maker; not as shiny as new Habotai silk, already stocked, but does have a lovely sheen after natural plant dyeing. Kniazeff professional silk dyes are used, which when steamed, impregnate and fixes the colour through both sides, (unlike some silk paintings of surface-only fabric dyes). Garments with silk painting have all been machine washed and even the darker colours are proven not to bleed dye. (Note: these wonderful dyes are no longer available from my supplier and I continue to eak out their remaining existence.)
After ceasing 6yr solid stint in commercial freelance textile design selling through international trade fairs with London studios, I moved to Devon, with two children ready for high school, in 1994. I brought along to Chudleigh Wheelcraft Centre craft studios, £200 worth of silk dyes and started learning the techniques directly applied onto pictures and cushions; also starting dress silk panels. (add old photo links)
All fabrics are washed at 60 degrees, to prevent shrinkage at variable rates. 40 degree wash thereafter is recommended.
Five garments may go into one new garment, giving a basic materials cost of £15 – £40 on average: not a cheap option, which needs appreciating when considering final garment costs, but the new creation process is nevertheless very satisfying.
Detailed information about the designing process, cutting and sewing, are often uploaded to this site during making and when a garment is finally finished. There is sometimes a delay between finishing blog and garment appearing in ETSY shop, but all enquiries welcome by email
This blog site is to be a portfolio of garments made and sold, (plus the dye processes). Newer garments will appear on a new site layout. I started selling at local craft events, and have and some garments are available in my ETSY shop. ( Online Shop currently under re-construction. ) Half of the garments on the website shop are now sold, but they stay as an example of making, to inspire others, and as a guide to what commissions may be possible.
For bespoke commissions with your own up-cycled clothes, using garments no longer fitting, or print designs you would like to give a new life – and a silk painting if wished – contact me via email.
A new fashion paradigm being experienced by designers, businesses and consumers is one by which clothes are treasured and valued for a variety of reasons based on overall sustainable production. This contrasts greatly with the existing buy-today, throw-away-tomorrow fashion business model.
UP-CYCLED – RECYCLED – ETHICAL FASHION
Vintage fashion is enjoying a wave of popularity, as consumers look for more individual, original garments, which now have a higher emotional value than the current season’s clothes from high street boutiques and chain stores
Why the growth in up-cycling?
The slow fashion CONSUMER is happy to spend more on garments which are sustainably produced.
The slow fashion DESIGNER or maker is happy to take longer on manufacture.
The constant waste of materials, with their associated production costs, is both an environmental and health dilemma. If you value the raw materials, of sustainable, ecological origins, you may value your garment more highly, and wear it for many years with a focus more on your clothes being timeless. (witness the popularity of ‘vintage’).
These days there is a proliferation of cast away clothes, a wasteful situation caused by fast fashion trends and cheapness of garments. Charity shops are brimming with last season’s clothes. Textile recycling and disposing companies are selling old clothes to Africa, impacting indigenous economies by reducing artisan production.
Shamanic Nights uses fabrics from charity shops, mostly very new and good quality. ‘Stonewashed’ Angles above, uses coffee/white dress prints, combined with original silk painted panels of angels and plants in colours to coordinate with fabrics used in dress, by Amelia Jane Hoskins, owner.
UNSUSTAINABLE BUSINESS MODELS
STOP OR REDUCE LANDFILL
Textile waste statistics are alarming; 13 million tons per year in USA. Organisations are growing to help with this problem.
High street chain fashion stores rush to produce ever cheaper clothes to compete with so called ‘demand’. But the demand is created by designers and companies who put out seasonal ‘fashion trends’, providing them cheap enough for customers to buy new stuff every season, to be ‘in fashion’ but obviously the main reason is to increase companies’ profits. Many of your clothes are made in sweatshops in far away lands, where labour is cheap.
People are finding labels from makers, as cries for help, in their garments.
Slow fashion entrepreneurs and companies wish to change the unsustainable fast fashion model created since the industrial revolution. Their main criteria is to use ethical fabrics and/or small scale production; and to provide fair wages for garment makers.
Some designers are choosing to use ecologically produced textiles, some choosing to use pre-worn clothes and discarded textiles to remake into new originals for the discerning ethical buyer.
Ecologically minded consumers and fashion businesses support the development of sustainable fabric production and sustainable garment manufacture. Rather than relying on mass production, with associated use of cheap labour and possibly poor manufacturing quality guidelines.
Ecologically friendly fibres such as organic cotton, linen, hemp, bamboo, grown without pesticides. Expensive pesticides leach into water systems causing health problems. Textile production is the second biggest contributor to water pollution globally. 20% of global industrial water pollution comes from treatment and dyeing of textiles.
Textiles produced in small quantities by artisans in small scale village communities, provide rarer originality of fabrics to be treasured by end customers. Natural dyes may be used. Collections may be limited. ‘FAIRTRADE’ cotton is available. Wages must be fare.
My personal philosophy is that there is already enough fabric in the world! Rather than buying new fabric, I’m personally committed to finding the best second hand garments to cut up, to recycle the best unworn fabric and combine in new ways. The result is a tailor made, freshly designed, totally original and new garment.
We must value our work in the new paradigm – unique and sustainable is best, and probably more expensive, rather than falling in line with the old paradigm, where cheapest is better despite the cost to the environment and peoples’ lives.
Some good books are:
‘TO DIE FOR ‘- Is Fashion wearing Out the world’? by Lucy Siegle.
‘SHAPING SUSTAINABLE FASHION‘ Changing the way we make and use clothes, edited by Alison Gwilt and Tina Rissanan, pub. Earthscan.
‘REFASHIONED‘ Cutting Edge Clothing from Upcycled Materials by Sass Brown
Design inspiration comes from seeing themes evolve between disparate fabric prints and colours, rescued to be recreated into a new unique garment artwork.
As an artist and trained textile designer, I have a keen eye for the illustration and patterns in textile dress prints. The prints I source and collect are variously of classical floral illustrative, mille-fleur coverage (tiny flowers), geometric, and astral (space cloud blurred, dotted and muted effect). A combination of all these together with coordinating plain colours makes a good patchwork.
Not all prints are of personal favourite by themselves, but depending on their colours, I will see a way they would contrast or blend within a theme. A dress full of rose bouquets can be cut up to introduce patch areas highlighting the best flowers. A smaller piece of fabric can become more special than the full repeated print area.
Cotton lace tops (often cotton/acrylic mix) are another good find, as they can be layered over other colours. Most synthetic lace fabrics also surprisingly take up plant dye to some extent, which removes any stark whiteness, too brilliant for patches amongst colours.
Choosing a print fabric to start with, start to make a pile with other colours and prints (5 is usually sufficient to start with). As you do this, one choice may be removed and replaced with another, as the combined effect literally ‘shouts’ too dark, too light, too blue, too pink, etc., depending on the theme in mind. The most subtle patchwork is when the overall effect is of fabrics of a similar tone; i.e. nothing too light, nor too dark, on its own. I often do include black with a strong colour collection, due to its fashion favouritism, but am more careful with lighter tones and darks mixed, when making patch-worked garments using panels larger than traditional patchwork.
Silk Painting Inspirations
The print designs in each fabric collection suggest new design themes using their elements to create a silk painted panel, or I may simply use some elements to copy combined with other images of my own. It may inspire towards a new design theme to be developed further again; . Colour mixing dyes to match the existing prints is an essential skill.
Scale can be considered here: a specific image from existing prints can be enlarged as a feature.
Faux Kimono-styled, deep sleeves extended from high waist
Shape is cut for fitted bodice front and back with bat-wing (kimono – like) sleeves extending from shoulders to high waist. Full lower skirt area.
Front lacing over fixed inside panel, usefully adjusts bust size from 36″ to 40″
Sleeves have cuffs which will turn back at the seam for tasking.
Notice collar, although a proper one, is caught down into high waist seaming at front, which could be thinner if copying idea, and stitch down to a point where it meets gusset (which I would do for a smaller summer dress)
Gorgeous patchwork colours form treasure trove arrangement. Generous fit up to 40 bust: Sleeves are kimono style loose, starting from below bust line. Lace ties ensure fit under bust. Back bodice top is already fitted to body, with gathers below
To buy ‘Purple Shimmers’or to commission similar, visit ETSY shop
Purple Patchwork Kimono-Dress – Creation Journey
Purples ‘collection’ cut, washed and collated from other garments.
Three or four plains and three to four prints, with maybe another contrasting plain works well. 5 – 7 different fabrics are needed for a good patchwork result. I used all these fabrics except for the hand dyed silk 3rd from right. (Later it went into ‘Butterflies and Pansies‘ dress as sleeves. )
When cutting up garments for patchwork, cut up along the sides of all seams. Sometimes cotton and linen seams can be ripped undone, and more fabric saved. Overall, unpicking is not worth the time it takes.
Sometimes there is small barely detectable fabric damage or weave pulls as there was in this blouse, near darts. In such case, don’t undo the seam where stitches have pulled. This blouse had been strained around the front dart seams. Due to inherent weakness in the loose weave, this fabric will be quilt-machined onto a thin cotton backing, to preserve the print and to ensure it stays firm.
Many parts of a garment can be recycled into a different new garment, such as this lace-styled neck. It won’t be included in the kimono, but it will form the start of another dress, likely to be with navy, if only the lace is used, or navy and pink if the print is kept.
The fabric used from this top is a stretch T-shirt type cotton, so will be firstly quilt machined onto a cotton, for firmness in patches, to be similar in weight to the linen and taffeta. If used only in its stretch state, it may cause a slight ‘baggyness’ in parts of the patchwork. This remaining cut-off lace neckline will form a new dress with the navy and pinks in other fabrics.
(Full ‘Making Diary’ was not completed for this garment, for reasons not recalled.)
Name ‘Tasmanian Blues’ is derived from Tasmanian origin of the eucalyptus bark (found in Hillier Gardens, Hampshire), used to create a dyebath. Silk collar and patches on garment are hand dyed (Habotai Silk 10) which took the dye bath so well – just soaking for an hour. Bark was previously steeped 24hrs then boiled, simmered for 2 hours, before removing from heat and adding silk.
A very deep gold was produced with the eucalyptus bark dye, which shines incredibly richly in sunshine. Lace pieces were left in the dyebath overnight and even though mixed fibres, took on a gold tone. Seed design applique motifs uses the lace dyed with eucalyptus bark.
Gold dyed Habotai silk was painted on with Kniazef steam fixed dyes. The gold dye was so strong, that painted dye colours were hard to see, and needed redoing. Even specialised bleach for silk dyes did not work, so well is the eucalyptus dye fixed!
Original dyestuff is bright gold in sunlight, but darker indoors. The darker gold piece is modified afterwords with iron sulphate (rusty nail liquid). Bottom right shows lace pieces dyed in cold dyebath overnight.
Story of patchwork blues.
I chose the blues to go with the gold silk, because 3 of the prints have gold areas with blues. Blue and gold are a classic mix, setting off one against the other.
Front buttoning strip features Chinese style print of Phoenix bird (right side) and tail of dragon (left side) which looks attractive as a focal point.
Two fabric prints have animalistic feel: the leopard or cheetah in blue/grey/black, and the navy blue/white ‘pheasant’ feather print. The blue lace was the right colour to add in. The light blue with text also has navy and some brown which blends in. By putting a variety of fabrics together, a new design idea comes alive. Phoenix and seeds could be a new theme.
Applique seed motifs
Using the eucalyptus dyed lace, emulated the texture of dried seed pods. Centre seed capsule part (in shadow from photo/drawing) is shown in dark gold dyed silk remnant on right-side garment, and left-side garment shows a lighter silk, bundle dyed from various seeds and dried flowers.
Making steps: ‘Tasmanian Blues’
[Images Temporarily unavailable Aug 2020 – being resized]
Garment started by using a polyester dress as LINING. I kept the cross-over ‘V’ neckline and fitted my fabrics to it. NOTE: its useful to have neckline and shoulders of a lining garment to start off with. Once patchwork is attached to that, patchwork can simply continue down to hem. Its very useful to use a bodice top from another garment as lining to fit sleeves to. I often make an under bust, high waistline seam below the length of an upper patched piece, darting under bust; also optionally at back for better fit.
The lining dress only has short sleeves, so I used other polyester fabrics to lengthen them in patchwork. Outside sleeve fabrics are viscose floral print and others, seen in making photos. Last four photos show cuff addition to lengthen sleeve and give print interest. black fused interfacing ironed on.
Fold extension over to show other fabric as an edge border contrast. Fold down outer onto lining.
Pin cuff extension to outer sleeve patches. Machine or hand stitch down
To give a fuller underarm, similar to kimonos; after inserting sleeves, I left underarm and side seams open, and cut strips for underarm gusset, using viscose fabric outer and navy lace inner: an elongated triangle about 4 inches to a point from underarm centre into sleeve length. (the lining dress was small size, so these inserts also enlarged fit up to 38″ bust.)
Darts can be seen at front and back of bodice sections.Back neck facing and simple front facing cut to fit dress front neckline.
A curved frill piece was used from the original lining dress to create a fit, which curves around back neck and fits to front edge of ‘V’ neckline.
Cutting adjustments made to allow a shape that would extend the curve from centre back neck (left side photo 1.) continuing around to fit to dress front V neckline, and produce a simple fold back collar only at front.
Once the under-fabric was established, an identical shape was cut in white cotton, to use as copy pattern for upper fabric patchwork, (which incorporates the eucalyptus dyed silk).
Photo 2. ‘Collar/facing was firmed a little with fine fused black interlining.
Finnish kimono dress lower patchwork making:
Once upper bodice is completed (with or without sleeves), the lower skirt part of kimono dress is made by cutting rectangles and joining until there is enough to fit around the high waistline. This is the stage to consider which colours to juxtapose in lower garment. You may save some special pieces to show at front. Symmetry is a good idea: working from centre, to sides, repeating colour/shades similarly on either side.
Start at the centre on the back, and work to the sides, adding patches until the desired width is reached, in correspondence to the upper bodice of dress. I describe an ad-hoc method of choosing fabric patches one by one, until enough are made. Alternatively, by calculating desired length of dress, and desired size of patches, you can calculate how many patches of each fabric colour or printed pattern will be needed in advance of cutting and machining. Lay them out on a table to desired colour juxtaposition, keeping in mind how the front and centre back will look. Work similarly from centre back, adding patches across and down, until length is reached. Create the patches in columns, then machine down the long rectangular panels, onto the under lining. (Fabric, or garment used as lining base). Allow 2-3 inches more at front and back, which can be gather-stitched to fit before seaming the bodice and skirt parts together. This could be darted if preferred. I darted the kimono-dress.
[Making images temporailly unavailable – being resized Aug 2020]
There was enough blue themed fabric left to make small tunic dress. Again, patches are stitched onto an existing garment; a cream/white/brown/blue flora design A-line short sleeved flared top, which becomes the lining. The beige and blue on creamy peach work well with the blue patchworks, and also provide a light background to the blue lace patches, contrasting the lace: see top back photo and front lower side. (Light coloured lace can utilise darker backgrounds.) Short sleeves are unlined patchwork with bound viscose print hems.
The armholes were large, for a Plus size, so I darted the lining from armhole to bust point, and did same with upper patchwork. I cut down the centre due to extra width, and folded over edges for front facing firmness, still having enough to overlap for buttoning
MAKING – bound button holes:
Mark width of button, add a little more. Sew a rectangle over button size area on right side of fabric.
Machine around, cut centre, cut into corners
Fold rectangle through to wrong side, Press flat with folds meeting, as shown.
Hand stitch lining to bound edges.
Top stitch on right side (optional). I did so here, due to fraying of lining fabric.
Applique motifs are inspired from Nigella seed pods grown in my allotment. Photos and drawings simplified for cut and sew. The centre silk has been dyed with eucalyptus bark before painting on (same silk as ‘Tasmanian Blues’ collar above), although darker due to after-modifying soaking in iron (rusty nail water makes a considerable darker change). Right photo seed pod has silk centre of bundle dyed silk with seeds and petals. Lace seed ‘pod’ fabric has been also dyed with eucalyptus bark, left overnight after initial silk dye has taken up most of the colour. Its always a good idea to see how deep a colour you can dye in the ‘left-over’ dye bath. See eucalyptus dying blog: